Sunday, April 8, 2007

Boyle reviews Jaspin, Buried in the Bitter Waters: The Hidden History of Racial Cleansing in America

BURIED IN THE BITTER WATERS: The Hidden History of Racial Cleansing in America (Basic), by Elliot Jaspin is reviewed by Kevin Boyle in today's Washington Post. The book takes up purges of African American communities by whites. Boyle writes, in part:
...In the last decade or so, the silence has started to lift. Oklahoma established a public commission to investigate the destruction of Tulsa's African American neighborhood in a horrific 1921 pogrom. Hollywood made a movie dramatizing whites' assault on the black town of Rosewood, Fla., in 1923. And two years ago, the sociologist James W. Loewen published an award-winning book, Sundown Towns, that systematically documented America's wave of racial purges, which he rightly called "ethnic cleansing." Now Elliot Jaspin's vivid Buried in the Bitter Waters digs deeply into 12 of the purges -- those he judged "the worst of the worst."
A reporter for the Cox newspaper chain, Jaspin brings a journalistic sensibility to the task. He's interested less in broad social dynamics than in the particulars of the small towns where the 12 purges took place. He carefully recreates the often convoluted steps that led to each town's racial cleansing "in the period between Reconstruction and the 1920s." And he makes the horror come alive by describing the experience of people swept up in the violence of the moment: a mob member's viciousness, a white official's cowardice, a victim's heart-pounding fear as she fled across an open field, her house ablaze behind her. Jaspin then takes each story to the present day, showing how the purge left wounds that still refuse to heal.

For the rest, and Boyles' critique, click here.